The best free PC software programs aren't about the cost (or lack thereof), they're about the opportunity-collection of code that uses the dumb hardware in your computer to solve problems, tools that can balance your household budget to cure cancer.
The process of stocking your PC is intensely personal. There are, however, some programs that we recommend to everyone. This mix of free PC programs-a mix of must-haves and delightful additional tools-deserves a place on almost any computer (unlike, say, this more niche roundup of 5 free Windows power user tools we can't live without).
However, there are times when an alternative that is paid makes sense. As well as our recommendation for the category, we identified the circumstances when an upgrade is warranted over the free offering. If you're setting up a new computer, be sure to check out our guide to setting up your new computer the right way if you're selecting these programs as part of your break-in process.
When you're used to something else, using Windows 10's default Internet Explorer or Edge browser is like wearing somebody else's shoes.
We put our money on Microsoft's Edge, which came out on top in PCWorld's extensive best browser showdown, narrowly beating Google's equally impressive Chrome browser. All of them, however, are free! Our guide to Edge, Firefox, and Vivaldi explains some compelling features you won't find anywhere else
Installing Ninite on a new computer is a breeze. To get a single, custom .exe file containing the installers for each program, go to the Ninite website, select which freeware you want to install on your PC-it provides dozens of choices, including many programs mentioned here-and click Get Installer. The executable automatically installs each one in succession, and Ninite automatically declines the offers for bundled bloatware from free apps. Nothing to worry about.
In spite of the sanctity of Ninite, installing unwanted bloatware is one of the greatest dangers of free software. Use Unchecky for everything else. When you try to install a program, Unchecky automatically unchecks all of the checkboxes. It will also warn you if shady software is trying to sneak onto your machine.
Be sure to check out Microsoft's PowerToys suite if you want to customize your Windows experience. In spite of being marketed towards enthusiasts, PowerToys offers a variety of tools designed to streamline all sorts of PC hassles. The program provides utilities for batch resizing images, finding your mouse cursor quickly, remapping your keyboard keys, showing file previews in File Explorer, and much more. It's not too late to start using Microsoft's killer multitasking app, FancyZones.
For most users, Windows Security software provides adequate protection, but no single antivirus program can provide 100% protection, particularly against the latest and most clever threats. With Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free, you can detect and eliminate those cutting-edge 'zero-day' vulnerabilities. It can't be scheduled or used as a regular antivirus program, but when something nasty sneaks past your main program, it's invaluable.
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